Perceptual gains and losses in synesthesia and schizophrenia
Number of pages
SourceSchizophrenia Bulletin, 47, 3, (2021), pp. 722-730
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ DCC CO
SubjectAction, intention, and motor control
Individual differences in perception are widespread. Considering inter-individual variability, synesthetes experience stable additional sensations; schizophrenia patients suffer perceptual deficits in, eg, perceptual organization (alongside hallucinations and delusions). Is there a unifying principle explaining inter-individual variability in perception? There is good reason to believe perceptual experience results from inferential processes whereby sensory evidence is weighted by prior knowledge about the world. Perceptual variability may result from different precision weighting of sensory evidence and prior knowledge. We tested this hypothesis by comparing visibility thresholds in a perceptual hysteresis task across medicated schizophrenia patients (N = 20), synesthetes (N = 20), and controls (N = 26). Participants rated the subjective visibility of stimuli embedded in noise while we parametrically manipulated the availability of sensory evidence. Additionally, precise long-term priors in synesthetes were leveraged by presenting either synesthesia-inducing or neutral stimuli. Schizophrenia patients showed increased visibility thresholds, consistent with overreliance on sensory evidence. In contrast, synesthetes exhibited lowered thresholds exclusively for synesthesia-inducing stimuli suggesting high-precision long-term priors. Additionally, in both synesthetes and schizophrenia patients explicit, short-term priors - introduced during the hysteresis experiment - lowered thresholds but did not normalize perception. Our results imply that perceptual variability might result from differences in the precision afforded to prior beliefs and sensory evidence, respectively.
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